5 Scripture Verses for Those Who Strive

Is it just me, or have we made striving a virtue? We admire those who overachieve, who rise above expectations because of sweat and diligence. It seems like the harder a person pushes toward perfectionism, the more she’s admired. We call it a good work ethic.

Wrong.

We’ve taken a good thing–hard work–and warped it into over-work. Not only is this exhausting, but it’s futile. We’re placing our trust in the idea that perfection is possible if we try hard enough. This isn’t true in careers, and it certainly isn’t true in our spiritual lives. We will never reach heaven by working a bit harder than we did last year, a little harder than our neighbor, a little more efficiently than our coworkers.

perfection is not possible

In my upcoming novel One Plus One Equals Trouble, debuting early November, my heroine is a striver, an over-worker. She feels like what she does is never enough.

Are you there, in that place of striving and exhaustion?

Be encouraged by these five verses. They erupt from passages of chaos and human endeavor and dust us with a layer of grace.

  1. Exodus 14:13-14

Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Context: Israel trapped between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army. What did instinct tell them to do? Fight. But God said to stand firm and let him fight for them. In other words, “Don’t think you’re getting out of this mess by any clever means or sweat of your own.”

2. Psalm 46:10

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Context: A Psalm of assurance that amidst earthquakes, warfare, or the threatening of homes, God’s power is greater. In other words, “Enough!” God says. “Settle down and know I am who I say I am.”

3. Isaiah 30:15-16

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’ Therefore you will flee! You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’ Therefore your pursuers will be swift!

Context: Israel has panicked and gone down to Egypt to seek an alliance.  They’ve sought refuge in a nation, rather than in Yahweh. In other words, “Come back to me, your strength, and find refuge by ceasing your panicked striving.”

4. Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Context: Jesus is teaching his disciples that the way to learn and follow him is not by taking on lists of rules. Rabbi Jesus offers a yoke different than the yokes forced on disciples by other rabbis. In other words, “Only in me will you find true rest. You won’t find rest in the rules offered by other religions. You won’t find rest by doing good deeds.”

5. John 15:4-5

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Context: Jesus is about to die. It’s his last Passover meal with the disciples, and he wants to reiterate the oneness of himself with the Father, and subsequently, the oneness his disciples can have with him because of his death and coming resurrection. In other words, “I’m not just your teacher. I’m your life. Apart from me, you will be lifeless, fruitless. Not even your best efforts will produce fruit. Remain in me and see the life I will cause to flourish in you.”

What are your favorite verses on resting in grace?

You might also like Five Scriptures About Finding Worth in Christ.

It’s Time to Fall Again

Fall.

My favorite season.

I close the windows of summer and bask in the new quietness of the inside.

bask in quietness

The spicy aroma of cinnamon, apples, and cloves overcomes the sweet fragrances of snapdragons, lilies, and roses. Nature walks lead to pockets full of pine cones, acorn hats, and seed pods. Tree limbs bow, yielding to wind’s power. Leaves dry, crinkle, and . . .

. . . fall.

They come down, and I receive their beauty like blessings.

James 1, 17

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). And we do see the shifting shadows around us. The shortening of days, the brisk movement of clouds across the sky, blocking the sun, casting shapes across hilly landscapes.

Nature is hunkering down, preparing for dormancy. I am ushered to stillness by this thought. I am brought to that place where I can utter, “Speak, Lord.” The clutter drops from my life like the chestnuts from my neighbor’s tree, and I know if I reach to pick up the busyness again, I’ll be pricked.

Busyness

Fall.

Twelve years ago, he fell into my heart and sent down thick roots. And eleven years ago, October 15, our I do’s not only fell on the ears of friends and family, but rooted deep into God’s heart. A holy covenant formed. That man of mine, he still falls a bit deeper every year.

And when I fall–which I do so often–he catches.

I slip my feet into socks, the first time in months, and the threads hug my toes, a feeling that by January I won’t even notice, but now seems foreign. I light a candle. The soft glow from the string of white lights twining around my bookshelf brightens my heart. Tea on the stove, book in hand, afghan across my lap, and Strauss waltzes on the iPod. Thanksgiving floats through my soul, prominent as the pollen stirring up my sneezes.

And can I mention that great game? Football—the grinding of padded warriors working together, fighting, winning, falling. The delight of my loved ones, cheering, smiling, laughing, yelling at a television screen.

Yes, as an introvert, I love the intimacy of fall. The winding down, drawing in of nature. The time for gathering close what really matters—food for the soul—and storing it up for the barren seasons. Harvest time, a season of celebration for His provision. The garden finishes its offerings, and the dirty potato I pull up paints a silly smile on my face. I made this. I grew it. For this non-green-thumb, that sense of accomplishment is a grace gift.

food for the soul

Fall.

As a church musician, I pull out the Christmas music, begin to anticipate the bursting in of the baby Savior. The joy of the incarnation washes over me, like the pelting rain against the window. I let Christmas linger in the distance, the light at the end of the tunnel, and I keep my eye on it throughout the pumpkins, the football, the pilgrims, and the turkeys. Always, Christ coming . . . as flesh, as divine . . . into my life, wrapping around the sin and yanking it out by the roots.

Soup simmers on the stove next to the fresh applesauce, and so much simmers in my heart. Hopes for my children, quiet moments with my husband, prayers for the peace of the world, love for friends and family.

Fall.

What do you love about it?